April 2020 Reading Wrap Up – Part One [Books]

April 2020 1JanuaryFebruaryMarch Part 1March Part 2

I am not doing great at getting these up in a timely way. Ah well. April was another month in which I finished a lot of books, which means this is going to be another two parter. April also saw me complete my 2020 Reading Goal, which was set at 50. I’ve now increased it to 75. And it seems May is a bit of a reading slump month for me. So far I’ve finished 5 books this month, which is still good for me but I doubt it’ll exceed the 18 I read in April.

Doctor Who, The Tenth Doctor Adventures, Volume 1

doctor who tenth doctor adventures

My Review

2020 is the year I started listening to audiobooks. After a rocky start with DisneyWar, I’ve found myself enjoying them a lot, especially full cast productions. The Tenth Doctor Adventures contains three stories starring my favourite doctor and Donna, who though not my favourite of the companions, is still one I really like. This audio production was absolutely great to listen to, and I look forward to checking out more in the future.

Dead Daughters – Tim Meyer

dead daughters

My Review

Poltergeist Press are an absolutely fantastic indie horror publisher, putting out great books. Dead Daughters was slightly more thriller than horror for me, but I still really enjoyed this one. It’s got an intriguing premise and interesting characters able to carry the reader through. Definitley worth checking out.

Cirque Des Freaks and Other Tales of Horror – Julián López

cirquwMy Review

I had really high hopes for this one, and unfortunately it didn’t match up. I go into more detail in my review, but these felt more like doomed love stories than actual horror. Not to mention the plot for one story is ripped straight out of the horror film Waxwork. If you’re looking for LGBTQ+ horror anthologies, I recommend Black Rainbow instead.

The Devil’s City – Sara Tantlinger & Matt Corley

the devil's city

Review coming soon on Dead Head Reviews

Talking to friends who have read this, The Devil’s City works much better as a companion to the game currently in production, rather than as a standalone novella. I didn’t really get on with it, but I can see the appeal for others. For me, it moved too fast and didn’t feel like it had enough space to breathe, but many horror lovers have throughly enjoyed it.

The Tales of Beedle the Bard – J.K. Rowling

tales of beedleMy Review

I gave this a listen on Audible as it was a freebie. I probably wouldn’t have picked it up if it hadn’t been free anyway, but I was still glad I didn’t spend money/credits on it. The narration is great, with some fantastic actors involved, but parts of the book smack of self-righteousness. I read this originally at university, but returning to it now, I really wasn’t fussed.

Vicious – V.E. Schwab

vicious

My Review

I really liked this. Of course I did, it’s a Schwab novel, and I know I’m always getting interesting characters, intriguing plots and wonderful settings with Schwab’s books. Vicious asks what it really means to be a hero or a villain, and who actually decides who is who. If you’ve not checked this out, I cannot urge you enough to do so.

The Corpse Garden – S.H. Cooper

the corpse garden

My Review

I will shout this from the rooftops: S.H. Cooper is a bloody fantastic writer. Her short stories are excellent at combining heartbreak with horror, and reinforce an idea I will bang on and on about until someone tells me to shut up – horror is at its best when it is about love. If you haven’t checked out any of Cooper’s work, why not? For horror fans, there’s her two short story collections and the novella, The Festering Ones. If horror isn’t your thing or you also love YA Fantasy, go read The Knight’s Daughter.

Ghostland – Duncan Ralston

ghostland

My Review

Unfortunately I wasn’t really fussed on this one, and I absolutely love stories with multiple ghosts focused around an interesting setting. But this just read a bit superficial to me. There was no real character development, the book didn’t know if it wanted to be YA or Adult, and there wasn’t anything really new to it. It felt much like Jurassic Park with Ghosts. Which is an awesome premise, just not pulled off very well here.

Beauty – Sarah Pinborough

beauty

My Review

I already really miss this series. After reading all three, I can safely say this is a fantastic, interesting take on fairy tales, giving them modern twists while creating a new fantasy world around them. I really enjoyed all three books, but they definitely got better with each one. And I got through all three really quickly. This is a trilogy definitely worth checking out.

So there we have the first 9 books I read in April. Part Two coming as soon as possible!

Shades of Magic, Volume 1: The Steel Prince – V.E. Schwab [Books]

shades of magic steel princeI’ve mentioned it before, but I really am such a huge Schwab fan. I’m slowly making my way through her books, and have so far not been disappointed by a single one. The Shades of Magic series is definitely one of the best fantasy series’ I’ve read in a long time, and the ending of the second book made me so grateful I had the third to hand, to read instantly after.

The trilogy itself is very visual. It’s one thing I always love about Schwab’s work – she creates amazing locations and worlds and settings without it ever feeling like the description is weighing things down. In Shades of Magic, there is a clear picture created of the various Londons, which is probably why it was a good thing this graphic novel is set away from that.

Yet the raw visual power present in the books is here, too, brought to life by absolutely stunning art. This is a world where people have various magical abilities, and the effect of that on the page is amazing.

The young prince Maxim Maresh is sent away from London, to a brutal, violent port town in order to learn how to be a military leader. But there, Maxim faces more than he expected, when a pirate queen arrives and forces the town to bend to her every whim.

This graphic novel does a great job of reintroducing a couple of characters from the original series, who served more as background characters in Shades of Magic but take over as key players here. Maxim becomes more of an interesting character, as his backstory is revealed, and I’m really glad the decision was made to focus on him for the graphic novel, as I think his journey to becoming king is really interesting.

Here he is headstrong and perhaps a touch arrogant, much like his son, Rhy, who we meet in Shades of Magic. This is just a first volume, and it sets up the rest of the series really well, allowing us to get an idea of Maxim, what he can do, and the people around him.

As with all Schwab books, the characters are vivid and interesting. The storyline is intriguing and contains the sort of action that was done excellently in Shades of Magic. There’s plenty going on here. And the artwork is, again, stunning. This is definitely one to pick up if you read and enjoyed Shades of Magic, and I can’t wait until I can eventually get my hands on volume 2.

Vicious – V.E. Schwab [Books]

viciousIt’s been just over a year now since I started reading books by V.E Schwab, and every single one has been absolute gold. I’m slowly building up my collection and working my way through her novels. So far, I’ve read the Shades of Magic trilogy, The Near Witch, and City of Ghosts, as well as the Steel Prince graphic novel more recently. Even this small selection of Schwab’s books shows her ability to write in different genres and settings.

Vicious is the story of Victor and Eli, two young men, roommates who embark on a journey to discover if they can induce superpowers in one another. But their success comes at a price. Victor ends up in prison, while Eli establishes himself as a hero, setting out to eradicate other superpowered humans.

The most interesting thing for me in Vicious is how Schwab challenges the notions of what makes a hero, and what makes a villain. For the reader, it’s clear who we are rooting for, but in another story, the tables would be turned, with the reader/viewer rooting for the typical All American Hero, and eagerly awaiting the villain’s downfall. To everyone else, Eli is a protector, just looking out for people and ensuring they are safe.

The themes here are those that have run through stories of superpowered humans since they first graced the pages of comic books. Essentially, the question here – who watches the Watchmen? But Schwab brings her own talent to these themes, giving us characters we completely care about, with their own individual quirks and concerns. She presents us with a plot that is intriguing and gripping, spending part of the novel switching back and forth between Victor and Eli’s college days, and the present, as the two men come closer to seeing each other once again.

Schwab handles prose masterfully, conveying a lot – themes, character, plot – in a way that is easy to read, flows really well, and keeps the reader utterly gripped. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Vicious, and it introduced a set of characters I would be all too keen to follow in further books. Hopefully I’ll get to read Vengeful someday soon.

 

The Near Witch – V.E. Schwab [Books]

the near witchI only recently started reading Victoria Schwab’s novels. I started with City of Ghosts, then read A Darker Shade of Magic, shortly before going to an author event in Waterstones, Cardiff, where I picked up the next two Shades of Magic books and The Near Witch, money being the only thing stopping me from picking up everything else.

From the moment I started City of Ghosts, I absolutely fell in love with the writing. All the books I’ve read are vastly different, but carrying the same talent.

For anyone not aware, The Near Witch was Schwab’s first novel, which went out of print, and has recently been re-released.  Which is honestly a brilliant, great thing, because this book is an absolute delight.

For any fans who have read later books, it is well worth reading The Near Witch. There are some elements sprinkled throughout which feel like they have taken root, and branched out into other books, such as the Shades of Magic series.

The Near Witch takes place in the town of Near, where Lexi lives with her sister and mother. The people are afraid of anything unusual, including the witches who live on the town’s edge. A stranger appears one night, and shortly after, children start disappearing.

Near is described so well, it’s easy to imagine the town, and it really comes to life with the various characters dotted here and there, as Lexi explores and tries to discover exactly what happened to the children. Atmosphere plays a key role, and even the weather itself feels like an additional character, helping or hindering the characters as they move along their journeys.

The characters all feel real and fully realised, including Lexi’s family and Cole, the stranger. And as to the disappearance of the children, the reader is kept as on their toes as Lexi, trying to work through the puzzle and figure out if a fairy-tale really has come to life.

Overall, I loved The Near Witch for the same reasons I loved City of Ghosts and the Shades of Magic trilogy. For the atmospheric settings, the colourful characters, and the intriguing plot. Highly recommend this book for anyone who loves a good, haunting novel.